Happy Diwali, Columbia!
If there’s one thing pretty much all human beings can agree on, it’s that we love to party. Differences in culture aside, we’re inclined to agree on that sentiment. This Monday, the 24th of October, members of Sikh, Jain, and Hindu communities all over the globe began the first day of their 5 day long celebration of light: Diwali. This festivity is named in honor of the clay lamps, deepa, that Hindus light outside their home to commemorate the return of prosperity after a struggle. Depending on your regionality, that struggle could be Hindus celebrating King Rama’s defeat over Ravana in Northern India, or Narakasura’s fall to Lord Krishna in southern India. A lively and colorful affair, this festivity is celebrated over 5 delightful days of family, food, and light.
The first day, homes are cleaned, and gold or silver utensils are purchased to bring good luck to the heart of the home, the kitchen. The second day of Diwali shows the deepa being lit, and rangoli being created on the floors of homes: these intricate designs invite the blessings and fortunes of the Gods. Lakshmi puja, a prayer to the Goddess Lakshmi, prefaces a feast on the third day, which is a New Year’s Eve. The fifth and final day, families come together to enjoy fortune and happiness together over expansive, mouthwatering meals. This is just one means of celebrating Diwali, focusing on Hindus in India. To get a better feel for how Diwali might be celebrated closer to home, I asked Atlanta resident Siyona Keya some questions about the celebration. Aside from being a passionate storyteller and avid artist, Siyona is a practicing Hindu who has lived all over the globe. Her most recent travels took her to India, and to Thailand, the place her mom calls home, where much of her family still lives. The interview is as follows:
Q: How does your family celebrate Diwali?
A: Dressing up, making good food to share with everyone, and adding lights to our house (like on the trees and around our door frame, my dad loves LED’s). We’ll light fireworks, create Lakshmi’s footprints with Rangoli, put on mehendi [meaningful patterns created on the hands, arms, feet and legs with henna], and give 5 fruits to the Gods.
Q: Do you have any particular memories associated with the holiday?
A: Probably doing my Non-Indian friends’ mehendi and dressing them up in Indian clothes. It’s always so nice to see ppl that are interested in my culture. I think Indian culture is beautiful, and I know it’s frequently looked down upon by other people, so it’s really nice when people are appreciative.
Q: If you were to dress up, what would you wear to celebrate Diwali?
A: A lehenga. I’m young and fun and pretty- so of course I’m gonna dress up like a princess with a lively skirt and top that shows my midriff. This year i’m wearing a lehenga in the color rani pink, the queen’s color.
Q: If you could explain Diwali to someone much younger than you, how would you do it?
A: I would say that it’s the holiday of lights and we dress up and do fireworks and it’s a day of celebration.
She also recommends watching informational videos, like the ones I’ve listed below. Eat, dance, learn something new, and have a joyful Diwali! Until next time!
Image Description: Ms. Siyona Keya and her mom, Mrs. Shilpi Sharma, smiling warmly at the camera, dressed in lehenga for Diwali.
Mocomikids, director. Diwali for Kids, YouTube, 8 Nov. 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pp59n0So-XE. Accessed 22 Oct. 2022.
NationalGeographic. “Diwali – Festival of Lights | National Geographic.” YouTube, YouTube, 19 May 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrrW3rO51ak.
Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India. “Diwali 101.” Diwali Festival – Deepawali, Diwalifestival.org, https://www.diwalifestival.org/.